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Climate change policy on agriculture: clear and consistent

The Government has been clear and consistent for more than two years on climate change policy relating to agriculture, says the Convenor of the Ministerial Group on Climate Change, Pete Hodgson.

Mr Hodgson said he had been urging the agriculture sector to commit more funds to research into agricultural greenhouse gas emissions since 2001.

"The sector has been getting a clear and consistent message from the Government that its contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions should be through funding science," Mr Hodgson said.

"Unfortunately it seems the sector has not adequately examined its research effort and opportunities until very recently. The prospect of a statutory levy has now focused attention on this matter and I hope some positive ideas will emerge."

Government climate change policy exempts agriculture from emissions charges on agricultural methane and nitrous oxide emissions, on condition that the sector funds additional research into reducing its emissions. To date the industry has committed $800,000 through the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium, less than a tenth of the $8.4 million an independent scientific panel has recommended.

Taxpayers currently contribute $4.7 million a year to research into agricultural emissions and will continue to do so.

"The Government’s preference remains for the agriculture sector to make its own arrangements to deliver the necessary funding. If that is forthcoming, a statutory levy will be unnecessary. If it is not, the Government will move ahead with a levy to ensure that this research gets under way."

Climate change policy and agriculture Key Government statements and events

20 May 2001: Pete Hodgson first states his view that research into the reduction of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, partly funded by the agriculture sector, would be preferable to a tax on those emissions.

4 September 2001: Hodgson explains this view further in an interview with Dow Jones, saying he expects the sector to make a substantial contribution to research funding.

18 October 2001: First public consultation process begins, on Kyoto Protocol ratification and climate change policy principles.

20 November 2001: In a speech to Federated Farmers' national council, Hodgson again urges the sector to invest in emissions reduction research.

1 February 2002: Hodgson again states his view that research into agricultural emissions is preferable to taxing them, urges the sector to invest in research.

8 April 2002: In a speech to a Wairarapa agricultural group (The Shepherds) Hodgson again states his view that research into agricultural emissions is preferable to taxing them, urges the sector to invest in research and notes that he has not yet seen a commitment of "serious money".

10 April 2002: Hodgson announces increased Government investment in research into agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.

30 April 2002: Government's preferred climate change policy package released for public consultation. It proposes exempting agriculture from emission charges on methane and nitrous oxide, on condition that the sector invests in research into emission reduction. The Government retains the option of a research levy if the sector's investment is inadequate. Hodgson says in a speech he expects industry funding will be forthcoming and a levy will be unnecessary.

9 May 2002: Climate Change Project office releases timetable of preferred policy consultation meetings, 11 of which are specifically for farming and forestry interests.

22 May 2002: In a speech to North Canterbury Federated Farmers, Hodgson explains the preferred policy, again saying he expects industry funding for research will be forthcoming and a levy will be unnecessary.

8 October 2002: In a speech to a global warming seminar in Christchurch, Hodgson explains the preferred policy, again saying he expects industry funding for research will be forthcoming and a levy will be unnecessary.

17 October 2002: Hodgson announces the Government's confirmed climate change policy package, with the policy on agriculture unchanged: exemption from emissions charges, provided the sector invests in research into reducing agricultural emissions. The Government retains the option of imposing a research levy if the research effort falls below what is required. Background material explains that agriculture sector groups and the government are working on a research strategy for agricultural emissions research, due to be completed in early 2003. Hodgson and Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton are to report to Cabinet by early-mid 2003 on research strategy and funding.

10 December 2002: An international research workshop is held in Christchurch to set priorities for agricultural greenhouse gas research.

10 December 2002: The Prime Minister signs the necessary documents for New Zealand to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

23 May 2003: Government releases the "O'Hara report", an assessment of agricultural emission research needs based on a review of existing research, consultation with leading researchers and industry bodies and the international research workshop held in Christchurch in December. It recommends additional investment of $8.4m a year. Sutton and Hodgson note that agriculture sector representatives have said they do not want to use their own levy mechanisms to raise funding for research.

18 June 2003: Government releases discussion document on proposed levy to fund agricultural emissions research, seeking submissions by 31 July.

15 July 2003: In a speech to Federated Farmers' annual conference, Sutton explains that the decision to introduce a levy has been made because the preferred approach – for industry-funded research – has not delivered the funding needed.

22 July 2003: Sutton says it is not too late for the sector to explore whether private investors could provide the necessary research funding.

28 August 2003: Hodgson says it is not too late for the sector to make its own research funding arrangements, which remains the Government's preferred approach.

All ministerial statements and speeches are available on www.beehive.govt.nz

Other key documents are available on www.climatechange.govt.nz




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